IndyPride: Sen. Jim Merritt 'not welcome' at weekend pride events; Merritt to walk as citizen

Posted at 9:16 AM, Jun 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-04 20:17:02-04

INDIANAPOLIS – Sen. Jim Merritt, the Republican candidate for mayor of Indianapolis, is not welcome at this weekend’s pride events due to his “track record,” IndyPride said Monday.

Monday morning, "IMPORTANTVILLE!" reported that Merritt was going to march in the Cadillac Barbie Indy Pride Parade. The publication’s author, Adam Wren, said Merritt’s campaign spokesperson confirmed that he would be marching. The spokesperson, April Gregory, has not returned RTV6 questions about Merritt’s status for Saturday’s parade.

After Wren reported that Merritt would be marching, a few other publications picked up on the news. This led to GLAAD, an LGBTQ acceptance organization, to criticize the move.

Monday afternoon, IndyPride said on Twitter that Merritt would not be welcome at the weekend’s events. He will not be marching because he missed the May 4 deadline to register, said Chris Handberg, the executive director of IndyPride.

There’s nothing anybody can do to keep Merritt from simply attending and watching the parade on Saturday — Handburg said nobody’s going to escort him away from Mass Ave — but IndyPride has made it clear he is not welcome, due to his voting history.

In 2014, Merritt voted to ban same-sex marriage in Indiana. In 2015, he voted for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which some saw as a discriminatory law before it was amended later that year.

The first time Handburg heard of Merritt wanting to march in the parade was Monday, he said.

Tuesday afternoon, Merritt's campaign released a statement the parade. It reads:

Indy welcomes all. It’s an important mantra we have been proudly proclaiming in our community for several years. This is the message I personally want to spread as well. That is why I have been planning for several months to walk in the Indy Pride Parade with friends.

My intention for walking in the Pride Parade is to show others that, over time, my opinions have progressed and theirs can as well.

I own every vote that I have made in the legislature but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t learned along the way and that I would make the same votes today. As Mayor of Indianapolis my constituency would be different than it has been in my senate district. I will represent all citizens of Indianapolis.

My campaign has spoken with Indy Pride, Inc. today and Indy Pride, Inc. clarified that my original plans of walking as a private citizen, not as a candidate for mayor, in the parade on Saturday is acceptable.

I support LGBTQ+ rights. I voted for the hate crimes legislation this year. At that time, I said on the Senate floor, we must not leave doubt that Indiana welcomes all. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s a human rights issue. We must condemn hate by demonstrating how we love one another. I look forward to an ongoing conversation with Indy Pride, Inc. and other LGBTQ+ groups.